Key Points:

Doubt has been a constant companion of Epalahame Lauaki.

He's doubted himself and the Warriors and general public have doubted whether he could translate raw talent into genuine ability.

A number of these misgivings were laid to rest when the 23-year-old steamrolled his way through the Roosters last Sunday to spark a remarkable comeback in the Warriors' 31-31 draw. He almost single-handedly turned around a 16-0 deficit with a series of offloads and big plays and was rewarded with two tries of his own.

It was something of a watershed moment for the 104kg Lauaki and the challenge now is to replicate that form - consistently.

As Lauaki took the plaudits, Steve Price was likely sitting back with a satisfied grin on his face, much like a proud father.

A couple of months ago, Price sat Lauaki down and asked him to watch a video. It was a video put together of Lauaki terrorising opponents.

"I was honest and up-front with him and said, 'mate, I don't think you realise how damaging you can be'," Price remembers. "It wasn't anything to do with his technique, it was to show him that he can be someone he probably didn't think he could be.

"He was throwing off four blokes to score against the Roosters and I said to him, 'where's that Hame Lauaki?' He was doing it for us this year but only in little patches.

"I did it because I see how important he is to our side. If he's playing well, we're normally going pretty good. I'm a huge fan of Hame and I know he can be a superstar in our game if he just believes in himself."

This episode said a lot about Price and the influence he has at the club but it also said a lot about Lauaki that he asked if they could watch it again the following week. "I felt that was really good," Price says. "It showed he was listening and that it was important to him."

Lauaki is now an important part of Ivan Cleary's side. He's played all of his 19 matches this season off the interchange bench, where he can make a significant impact against tiring defences.

Even though he plays fewer minutes each week than most of his team-mates, his 70 tackle breaks before last night's game against the Titans ranked him second behind fullback Wade McKinnon, who had 143. He was also third-equal in offloads behind Price and McKinnon.

The key change has been a greater understanding of when to try to push the pass or go for the big hit, and he has responded well to the structured game Cleary has implemented.

At times in the past, his unpredictability and ill-discipline were liabilities.

Lauaki had long been earmarked as having great potential.

One of 10 children, the Tongan-born powerhouse was always trying to keep up with his brother and All Blacks No 8 Sione Lauaki, who is two years older.

The pair are freakishly similar in style and started playing league for the Waitemata Seagulls in Ranui before Sione went to Kelston Boys High School.

"They made him play rugby, because they didn't think league was much of a sport," the quietly-spoken Epalahame says. "I started at Waitakere College before I went to Kelston as well. I had one game for the 1st XV, which was pretty funny. I played on the wing but I didn't get much of the ball and didn't make many tackles. I knew league was my game."

During a game for an Auckland junior side in 2002 he was spotted by Daniel Anderson. The former Warriors coach invited him to training and it wasn't long before he was added to the club's books.

He made his debut against Brisbane in 2004 and played 16 games in that disastrous season, but he was largely overlooked in 2005 when the side was under the guidance of Tony Kemp.

Last season was interrupted by a pectoral injury but he returned impressively late in the season to help the Warriors to the verge of the playoffs.

Even then, his long-term future with the club was uncertain. He had been re-signed for another year, with an option for 2008.

Director of football John Hart explains: "The option was really a bit of wait-and-see.

"As Hame would agree, there were a few doubts with him. The club has total confidence where he is now and we exercised that option this year.

"When I first came here, he was very shy and ill-disciplined. He was learning how to be a professional. But in the past two years I have watched a young man grow. I think his greatest challenge is his fitness but, if he can get improve that, there's no end to what he might do."

Lauaki clearly feels comfortable within the present environment established by Hart, Cleary and chief executive Wayne Scurrah.

"Now I can walk through the front office. I used to hide and go round the back," Lauaki says.

"As a kid I was always the one at the back of the class. But just being around guys like Steve and Ruben, I'm learning every day. I'm more confident now. I used to doubt myself but now it's fun. I just go out there and play."

If he can continue to play as he has in recent weeks, it will be more fun for everyone involved with the Warriors. The only doubts will be in the minds of opposition players.